Jayhawks' top ranking first in almost 50 years

Updated: November 8, 2004, 7:02 PM ET
Associated Press

Sure, Kansas often grabs a spot in the upper half of the AP preseason college basketball poll, but the school hasn't been No. 1 since a player named Wilt Chamberlain suited up for the Jayhawks in the 1950s.

Kansas stood atop The Associated Press' Top 25 on Monday, the 13th straight season the Jayhawks have been ranked 11th or higher in the first poll.

The Jayhawks received 25 first-place votes and 1,697 points from the national media panel, edging Wake Forest, which had 22 first-place votes and 1,680 points.

The Demon Deacons were the first of three straight Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the poll, and six teams from the league were in the Top 25.

Wayne Simien leads four starters back for Kansas, which lost to Georgia Tech in the NCAA Tournament's regional finals last season. The Jayhawks were ranked No. 1 for one week last season and they have been ranked No. 2 in five of the last 12 preseason polls.

"I hope we're never going to be satisfied and our veterans understand they've got to go play. It's nice, but it means nothing in the big scheme of things," second-year Kansas coach Bill Self said.

The Jayhawks hope they can do even better than the last time they were No. 1 in the preseason: In 1956-57, Chamberlain led them to the national championship game, a triple-overtime loss to North Carolina.

As for Wake Forest, it has all five starters back from the team that lost to Saint Joseph's in the round of 16.

"You see it, you look at it, and you shake your head, but you can't waste one nanosecond to worry about it," Demon Deacons coach Skip Prosser said, referring to the lofty ranking, which matches the highest in school history in any AP poll.

Georgia Tech and North Carolina were third and fourth in the balloting. It is the second time in three years one conference has had the Nos. 2-4 in the preseason poll. The Big 12's Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas were in that order in 2002.

No. 11 Duke, No. 15 Maryland and No. 19 North Carolina State round out the ACC teams in the poll.

"It's a tough, tough league," Prosser said. "I don't think that'll ever change."

Illinois, where Self coached before heading to Kansas, was fifth. He succeeded Roy Williams, who went to North Carolina. The two coaches have ties to three of the top five.

"So, I've got a 1 and a 5 and Roy's got a 1 and a 4," Self said. "What are you guys trying to do to us?"

Syracuse was sixth, followed by Oklahoma State, defending national champion Connecticut, Kentucky and Arizona.

After Duke came Mississippi State, Michigan State, Louisville, Maryland, Texas, Pittsburgh, Alabama, NC State and Notre Dame.

The last five teams in the poll were Wisconsin, Washington, Florida, Memphis and Gonzaga.

Six of the teams in the final poll last season were not ranked this preseason, including Stanford and Saint Joseph's, two schools that reached No. 1 during 2003-04.

Stanford, No. 1 in the final poll, lost 18-year coach Mike Montgomery and All-American Josh Childress to the NBA. The Cardinal missed the preseason Top 25 by one place.

Saint Joseph's, No. 1 in the next-to-last poll and fifth in the final voting last season, lost its backcourt of senior Jameer Nelson, the consensus national player of the year, and Delonte West, a junior who went to the NBA.

The Hawks didn't get a single vote in the preseason balloting.

"It will be different, but we take each team as a separate entity," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "Last year wasn't just about a great team. It was more about our attempt to develop a great program."

Georgia Tech and North Carolina each received 10 first-place votes, while Illinois and Oklahoma State got two each, and Kentucky had one.

Connecticut was the preseason No. 1 last year before winning it all, the 24th time that happened since the poll started for the 1948-49 season.

Eight conferences were represented in the preseason Top 25. The Big East and Southeastern Conference followed the ACC with four teams each, while the Big 12 and Big 10 had three each. The Pac-10 and Conference USA each had two teams, while Gonzaga of the West Coast Conference was the only Top 25 team not from one of the power leagues.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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